Sunday 24 January 2016

Red Crested Pochard at Slapton Ley

With 3 days off together I had big plans to make the most of it including a birdwatching boat trip on the River Exe with my mates Mavis and Mike - however the boat trip has had to be rescheduled to March as Mike is unwell and I have had a stinking cold which has scuppered my energy levels and original plans.

Thursday 21st and I needed some fresh air and so I had a quick bus trip out to Laira Bridge over the River Plym to have a look for the black necked grebe I saw last week. The tide was high and it was a grey and gloomy day but I found the grebe quickly enough although it was further out from the bridge than last week and the views were not so good in the poor light. A grey wagtail and a curlew also flew over the bridge and I found a pair of blackcaps feeding in the ivy bushes on the wasteground at Friary Mill on the walk home.

Friday 22nd was bright and sunny but windy and despite the heavy overnight rain and recent wet weather we decided to head off to Stoke Point for a walk, a bit of a mistake as the path was a complete quagmire and we spent most of the time looking downwards to keep ourselves upright and as mud free as possible. Despite feeling shitty I managed the whole walk which I was pleased about and we had a nice lunch at The Ship Inn at Noss Mayo.

New for the year was a raven flying over looking very tatty with worn tail and wing feathering but a kestrel, a female sparrowhawk and a buzzard flying over looked much smarter. I checked out all the stonechats feeding in the gorse bushes but couldn't find any Dartford warblers. A flock of around 50 linnets feeding in a stubble field were the first for the year along with meadow pipits feeding on the grassy cliff tops and I also saw a goldcrest, chaffinches and bullfinches in the woods near the caravan park.

Despite the recent freezing weather a bumble bee, a bloody nose beetle and dung flies on the cow pats were also seen in the mild but blustery conditions.

Saturday 23rd and with rain forecast for the afternoon we headed off to Slapton Ley in the morning for a quick walk. As we arrived at Torcross I could see a male and female goldeneye and 2 male red crested pochard from the car quite close to the road and I managed to get some nice views of them amongst the tufted duck and coot. Scanning through the duck flock and I found 2 pairs of pochard along with the strange looking male tufted duck x red crested pochard hybrid that has been around for a few years now.

2 Male Red Crested Pochard with Mallard

Male Tufted Duck x Red Crested Pochard Hybrid (top left)

Tufted Duck/Red Crested Pochard Hybrid

Tufted Duck/Red Crested Pochard Hybrid

Walking along the Ley towards the bridge and a flock of 4 female and 3 male goldeneye were displaying together before dispersing across the Ley (the goldeneye were very mobile and flighty around the Ley and this was the highest number of birds I saw together).

Pair of Goldeneye

Pair of Goldeneye

From the bridge a chiffchaff with a silver leg ring showed well while 2 Cettis warblers and a water rail were heard calling. 2 guys with massive camera lenses made me chuckle as they were getting excited about a bird feeding in the reeds, thinking it was a kingfisher, but it turned out to be a blue tit, neither of them having any binoculars with them.

Heading back to Torcross and a scan of a large flock of ducks at the back of Ireland Bay and I found 2 black necked grebes amongst the tufted duck, coot and gadwall along with 3 little grebes - distant views as the grebes constantly dived in the increasingly gloomy conditions.

Black Headed Gull in almost Summer Plumage

Lunch at the Seabreeze café was delicious and just as we left the café it started to rain and so we headed off home but my year list is now on a very respectable 112.


  1. Hello Stuart,
    hope you are well. I was lucky enough to find the Squacco Heron at Beesands last May. I did a google and you appear to be the only person who managed to photograph it. I was wondering, would it be ok with you if I 'lifted' a couple off your blog and put it in with the rarity description. Great blog by the way.
    Best wishes, Perry.

    1. Hi Perry
      I am more than happy for you to use my photos although they are not that great being more record shots than anything else. A nice bird to find, well done, and a British lifer for me.
      Best wishes

    2. Thanks Stuart,
      thank you, greatly appreciated. I was surprised anyone got photos of the bird as it was a way off so yours was a great effort. Certainly says more than 1000 words. That hybrid ducks been around for a few winters now, real fashion statement !
      Best wishes, Perry.